A “New” Capital
In seven years, there will be a ‘new’ new Cairo. The new capital will be built in Egypt’s Eastern desert with new homes, new jobs, new parks, new mosques and churches, new everything. This may sound like a new idea to many people but not to Egyptians. Over the last 5,000 years, Egypt has had 24 capital city changes. Each move has intended to decrease the population in one area and avoid congestion. Despite these same problems occurring again and again, the same solution continues to be given.
In March 2015, the Egyptian government announced a partnership with a UAE based company to fund the creation of the new capital city. According to the Egyptian government, the purpose of this new city is to ease congestion and “overpopulation” in Cairo over the next 40 years. The new city will create 21 new residential districts that will house 5 million people. The city will also have over 650 hospitals and clinics, 1,250 mosques and churches, hotels, malls and a theme park double the size of Disneyland.
Many people may read this idea and not immediately realize its faults. What’s wrong with building a new city and urbanizing desert land? What’s wrong with decongesting the current capital and spreading out Cairo’s population? What’s wrong with potentially creating more jobs for the lower and middle class citizens? What is wrong is, the plan is unrealistic. What is wrong is, a non-Egyptian private company is ‘buying’ and controlling Egyptian land. What is wrong is, lower and middle class Egyptian citizens will still struggle to live their daily lives.
Cairo has a long history of creating satellite cities in an effort to decongest Cairo. The cities are often left unfinished and deserted. Realistically, if this city is successfully accomplished, it will become an upper class city that is closed off from others. Lower and even middle class citizens will still not be able to afford to live in such a luxurious city. Yes, it may attract tourists and wealthy residents, but what’s the purpose if the same problems remain in “old” Cairo? What’s the purpose of creating a new city that will neglect Egypt’s urban problems and enable the poverty cycle to continue?
Housing prices are no longer affordable for an average citizen living in Egypt and this has caused low-income areas to become pockets of centralized poverty. In order to ease congestion and “overpopulation” in cities like Cairo, the government needs to expand out of the cities by adding housing as an extension to an already existing city, not creating an additional isolated hub. They also need to address the needs of already existing cities.
Instead of building a new city for government buildings and creating an attractive city for tourists, any new city should be focused on elevating the country’s economy and decreasing poverty. The government in Egypt should hire local engineers and Egyptian companies to plan and build the city instead of contracting out to foreign companies. Making the new city a local project will provide jobs to Egyptian citizens and aid to alleviate unemployment and poverty. In addition, more revenue can be generated when cities provide local opportunities to start businesses, buy land and apartments and earn living wages. The dream of making the new city and restoring Egypt’s reputation to the outside world can still happen, but it should involve Egyptians improving their own country, first.
Sarah Elbery is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Planning & Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies. She is currently an MPA candidate at Rutgers University with a concentration in International and Regional Development.